Manchester United are no closer to concluding their long-running search for a director of football.

Rumours emerged over the weekend indicating the Red Devils were closing in on Lille's Luis Campos, famed for spotting the likes of Kylian Mbappe during his time at Monaco.

But fresh reports in France suggest United will be left frustrated in any bid to lure the Portuguese to Old Trafford.

 

UNITED TARGET NOT INTERESTED IN LEAVING LILLE

Claims that United have commenced negotiations with 55-year-old Campos are wide of the mark, reports Le 10 Sport.

There has apparently been no contact between the parties and, in any case, the former Real Madrid scout is said to have no plans to leave Lille.

United's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday and the loss of Marcus Rashford has exacerbated the need for signings, an area in which Campos was expected to assist.

Campos previously had a long career as a head coach in his native Portugal, where he led Gil Vicente and Beira-Mar among others.

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain are in preliminary talks with Neymar's representatives about a contract extension, according to French broadcaster TF1, although the Brazilian would prefer to delay concrete discussions.

- Krzysztof Piatek's proposed switch to Tottenham has stalled over Milan's £30million asking price, claims the Daily Mail.

- Spurs could turn their attention to Leicester City flop Islam Slimani, according to the Telegraph. The 31-year-old is out on loan at Monaco, where he has scored seven goals in 13 Ligue 1 games.

- Inter forward Matteo Politano favours a return to Serie A rivals Roma but may be given the option of leaving San Siro for Sevilla, says Corriere dello Sport.

- LaLiga side Espanyol hope to sign Reinier on loan once the Brazilian teenager's move to Real Madrid goes through, reports Spanish newspaper SPORT.

Dreams of Premier League glory began to feel like an inevitability at Anfield as Liverpool beat Manchester United on a weekend that saw Leicester City, Chelsea and Manchester City drop points.

Jurgen Klopp's side dispatched their old rivals with goals from Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah, leaving Reds supporters full of confidence after Burnley came from behind to beat third-placed Leicester 2-1 at Turf Moor.

There was a surprise result at St. James' Park on Saturday, Frank Lampard's Chelsea dominating for long periods against Newcastle United but succumbing to a late Isaac Hayden goal in a 1-0 defeat.

There were late goals at the Etihad Stadium, where Sergio Aguero thought he had won it with a brace, only for Fernandinho to put through his own net in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.

The weekend's Opta data offers detailed insights into the stories behind those results, as well as Wolves' dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over Southampton at St. Mary's.

 

ANFIELD FULL OF HOPE AFTER BACK-TO-BACK HOME WINS OVER UNITED

They are no longer saying it quietly: Liverpool fans firmly believe the title is theirs after watching their side beat United on Sunday.

The victory marked the first time Liverpool have claimed consecutive home Premier League wins over the Red Devils since winning three in a row between September 2008 and March 2011 and there was an air of invulnerability around Anfield at the final whistle.

Liverpool have taken 91 points from a possible 93 in their last 31 Premier League matches, winning 30 and drawing just one, while United have now lost nine of their last 16 top-flight away games (W3 D4 L9).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have failed to score in eight of those games and they gave Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson little to do despite creating a number of goalscoring opportunities.

Alisson kept himself busy by becoming the first Reds keeper to assist a Premier League goal since March 2010, when Pepe Reina laid on a goal against Sunderland.

 

 


LATE HAYDEN WINNER LEAVES LAMPARD'S BLUES REELING

Chelsea have lost as many Premier League games this season as they did in the entirety of 2018-19 after Hayden scored in the 94th minute to snatch victory for Newcastle over Lampard's inconsistent Blues.

Four of Chelsea's eight league defeats this season have come in their last eight matches and supporters making the trip to Tyneside had reason to be fearful of their side coming unstuck.

Chelsea have now lost five of their last seven top-flight trips to St. James' Park but defeats to teams managed by Steve Bruce have been a rare occurrence - this was only the second time he has beaten the Blues in 23 games against them as a manager (D5 L16).

Prior to Hayden's strike, Newcastle had not scored a last-minute winner since Ayoze Perez struck against Tottenham in December 2015.

It was Hayden's third Premier League goal and came in his 70th appearance in the competition, his last coming in February 2019 against Wolves.

 

POROUS CITY PAY FOR ERRORS AT THE BACK

City came from behind to lead with three minutes left in their clash with Palace but conceded at home in the Premier League for the 12th time this season as the Eagles secured a point at the death.

Pep Guardiola's men have now conceded as many goals at home in the league as they did in the whole of last season and this was their third draw of the 2019-20 season - in their title-winning campaign last term they only drew twice.

Aguero's double inside five minutes marked the Argentina international's 250th and 251st goals in all competitions for the club in his 360th appearance, but Fernandinho became the first City player to score a Premier League own-goal since Nicolas Otamendi against Huddersfield Town in November 2017.

The scoring was opened by new signing Cenk Tosun, who netted in the 39th minute to become the fourth Turkish player to reach 10 Premier League goals after Muzzy Izzet, Tuncay Sanli and Tugay.

Palace are ninth in the table after four consecutive draws - the last time they drew as many Premier League games in a row was in 1992-93 when they started the season with the same sequence.

 

WOLVES EMERGING AS COMEBACK SPECIALISTS

When Raul Jimenez scored from the penalty spot at St. Mary's he pulled Wolves level after they had been two goals down, but there was even better to follow for Nuno Espirito Santo's men.

Jimenez scored again in the 76th minute, taking his tally to 19 goals in all competitions this season and clinching three points for Wolves that means they have now picked up 18 from losing positions in the Premier League this season - seven more than any other side.

Falling behind after 15 minutes to a Jan Bednarek goal was nothing new for the visitors, who have conceded first in 16 league games this season including each of their last seven in a row.

But Jimenez has been directly involved in 28 goals this season and after Shane Long netted his 54th Premier League goal to make it 2-0 to the Saints, Pedro Neto scored for the second time in his last three league appearances to tee up the Mexico international for a memorable brace.

Jimenez now has 19 goals and nine assists to his name in all competitions this season, giving him more direct goal involvements than any other top-flight player in 2019-20.

Jamie Vardy missed a penalty as Burnley came from behind to beat Leicester City 2-1 at Turf Moor and condemn the Foxes to back-to-back Premier League defeats.

After Chris Wood's instinctive finish against his former side had cancelled out Harvey Barnes' contentious opener, Leicester looked set to retake the lead when Ben Mee fouled the Foxes' goalscorer with 23 minutes remaining.

Vardy, however, lacked his usual composure from the spot, with Nick Pope making a smart stop down to his left and also denying Leicester's forward in a one-on-one soon after.

Pope's saves paid further dividends in the 79th minute as Ashley Westwood lashed home from the centre of Leicester's box and, despite a late glut of pressure, Brendan Rodgers' side could not find a way back.

Sunday's victory ends a four-match losing streak in the Premier League for Burnley, with Sean Dyche's side – who were furious that Barnes' opener was allowed to stand despite a robust challenge from Dennis Praet in the build-up – now up to 14th, five points clear of the relegation zone.

Leicester, meanwhile, have lost four of their past six league fixtures but remain in third place, six points above Chelsea.

Manchester City without Pep Guardiola?

Speculation over Guardiola's future is not going away, with Premier League champions City set to be dethroned by Liverpool this season.

And a move to Paris Saint-Germain could be on the cards…

 

TOP STORY – PSG PREPARE MAMMOTH GUARDIOLA OFFER

French champions Paris Saint-Germain are trying to lure Pep Guardiola from Manchester City, according to the Express.

Amid uncertainty over Guardiola's future, the Ligue 1 holders are ready to make a huge offer to tempt the City manager to Paris.

Guardiola, whose side appear set to finish some distance behind Liverpool in the Premier League, has also been linked with a return to Barcelona, despite their appointment of Quique Setien this week.

 

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Mirror, Premier League leaders Liverpool and rivals Chelsea will battle it out for RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner.

- Juventus midfielder and former Liverpool star Emre Can is wanted by Everton, reports The Mirror. Can is out of favour in Turin and has been previously linked to Manchester United.

- Il Corriere dello Sport claims Sevilla want to sign Inter midfielder Matias Vecino, who appears destined to leave Milan ahead of Christian Eriksen's reported arrival from Tottenham.

- Speculation over Bruno Fernandes' future is set to drag on. Although he has been tipped to join United, Sporting CP and the Red Devils are reportedly miles apart in their valuations of the captain. While United want to bring in Fernandes this month, the Standard says they are threatening to abandon their pursuit over fears it could damage Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's transfer plans at the end of the season. Over-paying for Fernandes has prompted concerns it could impact United's interest in Leicester City star James Maddison and Borussia Dortmund teenager Jadon Sancho.

Real Madrid are unwilling to loan out James Rodriguez, with Marca reporting the LaLiga giants are only interested in selling the Colombia international.

Harry Kane may have suffered an untimely injury, but England boss Gareth Southgate could well be blessed with a wealth of attacking options heading into Euro 2020.

Kane's hamstring injury should not see him miss the European Championship, but it has handed plenty of England hopefuls the chance to prove their worth.

And it seems as though this season, the Premier League belongs to homegrown forwards.

Jamie Vardy – who has retired from international duty – leads the way with 17 goals, ahead of three players sharing second place in the scoring charts with 14: Danny Ings, Marcus Rashford and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Arsenal striker Aubameyang is one of only four non-English players to take their place in the Premier League's list of leading scorers as things stand, along with Sergio Aguero, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Raheem Sterling, Tammy Abraham and Kane complete the top 10 and, using Opta data, we assess whether the 2019-20 Premier League campaign is an anomaly or the start of something new.

SIX OF THE BEST

Vardy's incredible form has been key to propelling Leicester City up the league, with Brendan Rodgers' side currently sitting third. 

The 33-year-old has 17 league goals to his name this season, though it is another Englishman who has been making the headlines recently – one who downed the Foxes last time out. 

Southampton's Ings has scored 10 goals in his past 11 top-flight appearances and is already the highest-scoring Southampton player in a single season since Jay Rodriguez in 2013-14. 

Level with Ings is Manchester United's Rashford, who seems to have finally taken up the mantle as the Red Devils' talisman and has scored 19 times across all competitions, one less than England team-mate Sterling, who has 11 league goals. 

Chelsea's transfer ban in the off season handed Abraham the chance to shine, and shine he has, scoring 13 times in the top flight, two more than England captain Kane. 

It should also be noted the six leading English scorers all represent different clubs, showing that homegrown talent is shared across the league. 

THE NEXT GENERATION

Of the English players leading the way this season, two – Rashford and Abraham – are 22, while City sensation Sterling is only just 25.  

Indeed, only Vardy, of the English forwards in the top 10, is above the age of 30. 

After overcoming a glut of injury issues, Ings is finally hitting his stride once more, with Southampton the benefactors.  

But, with the 27-year-old averaging a goal every 109.8 minutes in the league – a figure bettered only by Vardy among the other English players – Ings must be in serious contention for a place in Southgate's squad for the upcoming friendlies against Italy and Denmark. 

There is also plenty of potential for the future outside of the players in the top 10. After Sterling and Kane, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the highest-scoring English player and the 22-year-old seems to be coming into his own for Everton. 

He has scored eight league goals and 10 in total across all competitions, while United's Mason Greenwood is the highest-scoring teenager in the competition. 

Away from the Premier League, Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho has been lighting up the Bundesliga since his move from City in 2017.

HISTORY SAYS...

Only twice in the past nine Premier League seasons has an English forward won the Golden Boot, with Tottenham star Kane doing so in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Last season, the award was shared between Mane, Salah and Aubameyang, though each only managed 22 goals – the lowest amount since Carlos Teves finished top of the charts with 20 in 2010-11.

Since the start of the previous decade there has been a steady increase in the number of English players finishing in double figures for the season, with five last term being the most. But with six players inside the top 10 – and Calvert-Lewin not far away – this season, 2019-20 is proving the best season for homegrown strikers in that timeframe.

With Euro 2020 on the horizon, it appears this could well be the season that kick-starts a new wave of English talent starring in the big time.

Liverpool continued their relentless march towards the Premier League title with a 1-0 victory over Tottenham while Sergio Aguero sent records tumbling in Manchester City's resounding win at Aston Villa.

The Reds moved 16 points clear at the top thanks to Leicester City's defeat to Southampton – as Danny Ings kept up his superb form – though the gap was reduced slightly when City thrashed Villa on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Manchester United ended a three-match winless streak with a resounding 4-0 triumph over lowly Norwich City.

We review the key top-flight matches with the help of Opta data.

 

CHAMPIONS-ELECT SET NEW BENCHMARKS AS TITLE TILT CONTINUES AT PACE

Barring a collapse of epic proportions, it seems certain that the Premier League title will be Liverpool's for the first time come the end of the season – or earlier, at this rate.

Roberto Firmino's fifth goal in his past six appearances handed Jurgen Klopp's side the points at Tottenham, who lost successive league matches for the first time this season, and have also conceded 20 goals in 13 matches under Jose Mourinho.

Liverpool sit on 61 points at the top of the pile, the most any side has ever registered after 21 matches in a single season across Europe's big five leagues.

Klopp's team have amassed 104 points across their past 38 Premier League games, winning 33 times and drawing on five occasions; this is a record total by any team across a 38-match run in the competition's history.

It is 38 league games since Liverpool last suffered a defeat. In the same amount of time, Spurs have lost 16 matches – including three defeats to the Reds.

AGUERO SMASHES RECORDS IN SIX-GOAL ROMP

It was a waltz in Villa Park for City on Sunday, as Aguero's hat-trick and a masterclass from Kevin De Bruyne propelled Pep Guardiola's side to a 6-1 win and up into second place.

With his second goal – which came early in the second half to put City 5-0 up – Aguero became the highest-scoring non-British player in Premier League history, moving ahead of Thierry Henry.

Aguero moved onto 177 top-flight goals when he thumped in his third, making the former Atletico Madrid forward the outright record holder for hat-tricks in the Premier League with 12 to his name – one ahead of Alan Shearer's tally of 11.

After his first-half double and assist for Aguero's hat-trick goal, Riyad Mahrez is the only Premier League player to both score and assist 20 goals or more since the start of last season in all competitions. 

De Bruyne, meanwhile, is now on 15 assists for this campaign after teeing up two of City's goals.

INGS KEEPS GETTING BETTER

Two of the Premier League's leading scorers went head-to-head at the King Power Stadium, but while Jamie Vardy failed to inspire Leicester City to victory, Southampton's Ings proved the match-winner as the Saints gained revenge for their 9-0 defeat in the reverse fixture.

Ings' effort nine minutes from time was his 14th of the season and his ninth goal in his past 10 top-flight appearances.

It means 40 per cent of Ings' 35 Premier League goals have come in this campaign, while he is also the highest-scoring Southampton player since Jay Rodriguez in 2013-14.

Dennis Praet put Leicester ahead and is the 14th different player to have scored for the Foxes in the Premier League this term, while Brendan Rodgers suffered successive home defeats for the first time since he took over.

UNITED'S FORWARDS RUN RIOT IN OLD TRAFFORD ROUT

Missing leading scorer Teemu Pukki, Norwich City never looked likely to trouble United, who cruised to a convincing win to lift themselves into fifth place.

It is the first time United have scored four goals in consecutive home games in the league since September 2017, while the Canaries have not won in nine Premier League matches.

Marcus Rashford scored twice and is now on 19 goals in all competitions this season – only Raheem Sterling, with 20, has more among Premier League players.

Juan Mata set up two goals, the first time he has provided two assists in a league match since October 2012 – also against Norwich – while Mason Greenwood has scored four top-flight goals this term, more than any other teenager in the competition.

Roberto Firmino scored the only goal of the game as relentless Liverpool won at Tottenham to go 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League following Leicester City's defeat to Southampton.

Firmino's first-half strike on Saturday took the runaway leaders to 61 points, a European record among the continent's big-five leagues after 21 games played.

Liverpool look unstoppable in their quest to be crowned champions of England for the first time in 30 years, with second-placed Leicester – who have played a game more than the Merseyside club – slumping to a 2-1 loss at home to Southampton.

The Foxes consigned the Saints to a record-equalling 9-0 drubbing in October, but had three goals ruled out for offside at the King Power Stadium and Danny Ings' 10th goal in his last 10 top-flight starts gave the south-coast club sweet revenge.

Manchester United replaced Sheffield United in fifth spot with a 4-0 drubbing of Norwich City at Old Trafford, Marcus Rashford claiming a brace, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored and was sent off in Arsenal's 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.

Chelsea are five points better off than the Red Devils in fourth, having avoided a third successive Premier League home defeat with a 3-0 victory over Burnley.

Richarlison scored the only goal in Everton's win over Brighton and Hove Albion at Goodison Park, while Newcastle United and Wolves had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Molineux.

 

FIRMINO GIVES REDS CAPITAL GAINS

Jurgen Klopp's all-conquering side took another stride towards an elusive title by making it 20 wins out of 21 in the Premier League.

A clinical finish from Firmino eight minutes before half-time was enough to seal maximum points in north London.

Son Hueng-min and Giovani Lo Celso squandered great chances to level for Spurs and they proved to be costly as Jose Mourinho's side suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats to sit in eighth spot.

INGS KEEPS SAINTS MARCHING

Southampton pulled off a magnificent victory to leave high-flying Leicester stunned.

Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Evans had goals disallowed for offside and Southampton had a penalty decision overturned by VAR in an action-packed encounter.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's upwardly mobile side were not to be denied maximum points, though, courtesy of a deflected first-half strike from Stuart Armstrong and a 14th of the season in the league from Ings – who hit the crossbar twice – either side of Dennis Praet's first Leicester goal.

 

RUTHLESS UNITED HAMMER CANARIES

Manchester United responded to their 3-1 EFL Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City with a ruthless demolition of bottom side Norwich.

Rashford took his tally of league goals this season to 14 with one in each half and Anthony Martial scored United's third two minutes after the England striker helped himself to a double from the penalty spot.

Mason Greenwood was given far too much time to add a fourth soon after coming off the bench as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side ran riot, leaving Norwich still seven points adrift of fourth-bottom Aston Villa.

AUBA AND OUT

Aubameyang's 15th top-flight goal of the campaign gave the Gunners a first-half advantage at Selhurst Park, but things turned sour for the striker after the break.

The Gabon international was initially booked by referee Paul Tierney for a challenge on Max Meyer, but a red card was brandished after a VAR review which took over two minutes. 

Jordan Ayew's deflected strike had brought injury-hit Palace level before Aubameyang was ordered off and neither side could force a derby winner.

Danny Ings gave in-form Southampton sweet revenge over Leicester City and Manchester United hammered bottom side Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday.

Leicester consigned the Saints to a record-equalling 9-0 defeat in October, but the second-placed Foxes – who had three goals ruled out – were beaten 2-1 at the King Power Stadium less than three months later.

Ings' 10th goal in his last 10 top-flight starts sealed all three points for a Southampton side who have now won three and drawn one of their last four Premier League matches.

Manchester United replaced Sheffield United in fifth spot with a 4-0 drubbing of Norwich at Old Trafford, Marcus Rashford scoring twice, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored and was sent off in Arsenal's 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.

Chelsea are five points better off than the Red Devils in fourth, having avoided a third successive Premier League home defeat with a 3-0 victory over Burnley.

Richarlison scored the only goal in Everton's win over Brighton and Hove Albion at Goodison Park, while Newcastle United and Wolves had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Molineux.

 

INGS KEEPS SAINTS MARCHING

Southampton pulled off a magnificent victory to leave high-flying Leicester stunned.

Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Evans had goals disallowed for offside and Southampton had a penalty decision overturned by VAR in an action-packed encounter.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's upwardly mobile side were not to be denied maximum points, though, courtesy of a deflected first-half strike from Stuart Armstrong and a 14th of the season in the league from Ings – who hit the crossbar twice – either side of Dennis Praet's first Leicester goal.

 

RUTHLESS UNITED HAMMER CANARIES

Manchester United responded to their 3-1 EFL Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City with a ruthless demolition of bottom side Norwich.

Rashford took his tally of league goals this season to 14 with one in each half and Anthony Martial scored United's third two minutes after the England striker helped himself to a double from the penalty spot.

Mason Greenwood was given far too much time to add a fourth soon after coming off the bench as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side ran riot, leaving Norwich still seven points adrift of fourth-bottom Aston Villa.

AUBA AND OUT

Aubameyang's 15th top-flight goal of the campaign gave the Gunners a first-half advantage at Selhurst Park, but things turned sour for the striker after the break.

The Gabon international was initially booked by referee Paul Tierney for a challenge on Max Meyer, but a red card was brandished after a VAR review which took over two minutes. 

Jordan Ayew's deflected strike had brought injury-hit Palace level before Aubameyang was ordered off and neither side could force a derby winner.

Tottenham appear close to landing a replacement for Harry Kane, while Thomas Lemar could also be set for the Premier League.

Kane needs surgery on his left hamstring and is not expected to return to training for Spurs until April.

It seems the Premier League club are nearing a move for Milan forward Krzysztof Piatek, although there are contrasting reports over the status of the deal.

And, Atletico Madrid midfielder Lemar could also be heading to London.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS CLOSE TO LANDING PIATEK AS KANE REPLACEMENT

Tottenham have agreed a deal worth £28million (€32.95m) for Piatek, according to The Sun.

However, the Mirror reports Spurs have had a loan bid for the 24-year-old Poland international rejected, although talks are continuing.

After netting 11 times in 21 games for Milan last season following a January move from Genoa, Piatek has four goals in 18 this campaign.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea and Tottenham are both trying to sign Atletico's Lemar on loan until the end of the season, according to The Telegraph. Lemar is linked with an Atletico exit after just nine LaLiga starts this season.

- While Christian Eriksen's possible Spurs exit will dominate headlines this month, it appears the midfielder will not be heading to Old Trafford. Sky Sports reports Manchester United have ruled out making a bid for the Denmark international this month.

- Searching for a right-back, Tottenham are keen on signing Barcelona's Nelson Semedo, according to the Mirror. The position has been a problem for Spurs since Kieran Trippier's off-season move to Atletico.

- Javier Hernandez's stay at Sevilla could be coming to an end. Marca reports the club could let the forward, who has one goal in nine LaLiga games this season, leave amid apparent interest from LA Galaxy.

- Leicester City are trying to sign Juventus defender Merih Demiral, according to the Mirror. Manchester City and Everton are also reportedly interested in the Turkey international.

- Piatek aside, there may be other moves at Milan. La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira says Roma are interested in Suso and Cengiz Under could be heading to San Siro, while Milan are still eyeing Inter's Matteo Politano.

- Could David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini reunite for a third time? Sky Sports reports Moyes' West Ham are interested in signing the Shandong Luneng midfielder, who played under the Scot at Everton and Manchester United.

Brendan Rodgers paid tribute to Hamza Choudhury's second-half display in Leicester City's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Aston Villa, suggesting the midfielder gave the Foxes back their "identity".

​Leicester had been well on top in the first half at the King Power Stadium, but they trailed despite their dominance following Frederic Guilbert's 28th-minute opener.

It looked as though Villa were going to hang on, as Leicester struggled to create chances after the break and visiting goalkeeper Orjan Nyland enjoyed an impressive performance.

Kelechi Iheanacho eventually scored the equaliser 16 minutes from time, but it was Choudhury – who robbed Douglas Luiz in the build-up to the leveller – earning Rodgers' praise.

The midfielder was introduced at half-time to add much-needed steel after Wilfred Ndidi had been ruled out through injury on Tuesday, and Rodgers accepted he should have started the Leicester academy product.

"We dominated the game but we were passive in the first half, played too slow. It was all a bit slow," Rodgers told Sky Sports. "We didn't press the game enough.

"The goal we conceded, we have to be stronger, but we stayed calm and sped up the game, made more runs off the ball. Second half we were very good, they made some great blocks to stop us winning the game. Credit to them, they made it very difficult.

"Hamza Choudhury made a huge difference, it's my fault that I didn't start him. We could see that we needed him and he gave us our identity back.

"Wilfred Ndidi is so good for us, he's colossal, and we were too slow and not aggressive without him or Hamza."

Rodgers' counterpart Dean Smith feels the second-leg is tantalisingly poised, though he was frustrated by Villa's performance despite having the lead for a large chunk of the match.

"It should be a good second leg, all square and a boisterous crowd, a full house," he added. "But it wasn't the performance I wanted. Leicester were the better team, but we defended well at times.

"We have to be honest, they created chances as well. We were loose on the ball and we've got to do better. I'm certainly content with a draw, just not the performance.

"We gave away a farcical goal. Ezri Konsa has got brain dazzled. It's a disappointing goal, but it sums up some of our performance on the night."

The two sides will meet again for the second leg at Villa Park on January 28.

Kelechi Iheanacho's late goal spared Leicester City's blushes and secured a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg, leaving the tie in the balance.

Brendan Rodgers' Foxes went into the match on the back of three successive wins across all competitions, but they struggled to make the most of their superiority in Wednesday's clash, with Iheanacho's late equaliser the best they could muster.

For all of Leicester's first-half dominance, Villa were the more effective in the final third, opening the scoring just before the half-hour mark through Frederic Guilbert and then going agonisingly close to a second when Ezri Konsa was denied by the crossbar.

Villa's desire to attack vanished entirely in the second half as Leicester desperately attempted to break them down and eventually substitute Iheanacho capitalised on a defensive mishap to prevent a first-leg defeat.

Leicester initially had little difficulty establishing control, as they created several opportunities during the early exchanges – the best of which arrived in the 22nd minute, when Jamie Vardy's effort from a tight angle was blocked by Orjan Nyland in the Villa goal.

Villa scored against the run of play soon after through Guilbert, who threw himself into the danger zone to prod Anwar El Ghazi's cross past Kasper Schmeichel.

The Leicester goalkeeper was fortunate to not be picking the ball out of the net for a second time just before the break as he was beaten to a free-kick delivery by Konsa, but his header came back off the bar.

Leicester's grip on proceedings only tightened after the break, but Nyland continued to frustrate, rushing out to thwart James Maddison just past the hour when the midfielder had brilliantly made space for himself.

But Nyland was helpless 16 minutes from time, as Iheanacho lashed past him after Douglas Luiz had been caught in possession by Hamza Choudhury.

What does it mean? Leicester will fancy their chances

Although they were expected to win at home, Leicester will still be confident of securing a spot in the final to – presumably – face Manchester City.

While Villa's defence held out for a while, this match highlighted the gulf in quality between the two sets of players – surely Leicester will not be this wasteful next time.

Maddison Leicester's bright spark

While he may not have ended the match with a goal or assist, there is no doubt Maddison was the biggest threat for Leicester. In an impressive outing, he had a total of eight shots, created four chances, delivered five good crosses and completed 95 per cent of his 65 passes.

Schmeichel fails to inspire confidence

Nyland was in fine form at one end – at the other, Schmeichel was underwhelming. The Dane might have done better for the goal and was then all at sea when Konsa hit the bar.

What's next?

These two return to Premier League action at the weekend, with the Foxes hosting Southampton on Saturday and Villa welcoming Manchester City the following day. They face each other in the second leg on January 28.

Nicolas Pepe earned his first inclusion of the season in FIFA Ultimate Team's Team of the Week thanks to his eye-catching display against Manchester United.

The reported £72million signing from Lille endured a difficult first few months in an Arsenal jersey, struggling to recapture the form he showed in France over the previous two campaigns.

But in the 2-0 win over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, Pepe opened the scoring and was a constant livewire, troubling United's backline with his trickery, movement and general unpredictability.

With some European leagues enjoying a mid-season break, the latest FUT selection is rather Premier League-dominated, with five players from the division in the starting XI, while there are another six England-based representatives among the substitutes and reserves.

Joining Pepe in the starting XI are the likes of Real Madrid's Raphael Varane, Alejandro Gomez of Atalanta and Lazio's Ciro Immobile.

Below, we take a look at the entire squad that is set to be available online.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Salvatore Sirigu (Torino) – 86

RB: Jesus Corona (Porto) – 84

CB: Domenico Criscito (Genoa) – 82

CB: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) – 87

RM: Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – 85

CM: James Maddison (Leicester City) – 84

LM: Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) – 83

LW: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – 84

CAM: Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta) – 87

ST: Ciro Immobile (Lazio) – 89

ST: Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) – 84

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Odisseas Vlachodimos (Benfica) – 83

CB: Mouctar Diakhaby (Valencia) – 81

CDM: Mark Noble (West Ham) – 81

CAM: Marko Livaja (AEK Athens) – 81

LW: Ricardo Horta (Sporting Braga) – 82

ST: Enes Unal (Real Valladolid) – 81

ST: Nicky Maynard (Mansfield Town) – 81

RESERVES

GK: Paul Farman (Stevenage) – 72

CM: Uros Racic (Famalicao) – 79

RM: Tyrese Campbell (Stoke City) – 75

ST: Nahki Wells (QPR) – 78

ST: Matt Godden (Coventry City) – 75

Ralph Hasenhuttl labelled it a "disaster" and it seemed Southampton would enter a tailspin following their miserable 9-0 home loss to Leicester City in October.

The Saints were a goal behind when Ryan Bertrand was dismissed in the 12th minute, and they shipped eight more in a landslide at St Mary's, suffering the joint-heaviest defeat in Premier League history.

Saturday brings a rematch and Southampton have displayed good humour in the build-up, muting Twitter terms related to the last encounter.

But with a five-game undefeated streak behind them and a European place remarkably not out of reach, a team formerly deemed destined for the drop are on the up.

A review of history with help from Opta data puts the turnaround in clear context, positioning Southampton as potentially the best of the clubs who diced with double-digit defeats.

 

Bouncing back the easy bit

Hasenhuttl expressed bewilderment in the aftermath of the crushing October result, claiming he had "never seen a team act like this" as he criticised the complete lack of fight.

His words drew a reasonable response as Southampton next recorded 2-1 defeats to Manchester City and Everton respectively, before a 2-2 draw at Arsenal that would have been a win if not for Alexandre Lacazette's equaliser deep into stoppage time.

Home wins over Watford and Norwich City followed to provide further proof that psychological scars can be erased in a relatively short period in the Premier League.

In 1999, Sheffield Wednesday sandwiched a single defeat to Sunderland between an 8-0 loss to Newcastle United and a 5-1 win over Wimbledon.

The Black Cats themselves took the same length of time in 2014 to move past an 8-0 mauling at the hands of none other than Southampton, with one game – an away loss at Arsenal – wedged between that and a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Lessons can clearly be learned in the short term, but for most these results augur an eventual battle for survival.

Saints sustain top-half tilt

The loss to Leicester left Southampton in the relegation zone, exactly where they began when Hasenhuttl took over in December 2018.

Skip forward 11 top-flight fixtures to the cusp of this weekend's schedule and the Saints are now a mere five points adrift of sixth-placed Tottenham.

That might mean less with the table congested as it is but, sitting 12th after 21 games, Southampton are poised to set a new standard for teams scolded by defeats of eight goals or more.

Two of the five teams previously beaten by such margins limped on to relegation: the Ipswich Town side of 1994-95, who were in a mess by their time of their then outright-record 9-0 loss to Manchester United, and 19th-placed Wednesday in 1999-2000.

Wigan Athletic suffered two eight-goal losses in 2009-10 and still survived after they finished 16th, which is where Sunderland ended in 2014-15.

Aston Villa, 8-0 losers against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in December 2012, found their way to 15th that season, a high mark that Southampton have the opportunity to exceed as they look ahead to winnable home meetings with Wolves, Burnley and Villa over their next six fixtures.

Watford help chart way forward

Southampton's game against Leicester occurred less than a month after Manchester City's ruthless 8-0 demolition of Watford, and the Hornets are also a team righting their earlier wrongs.

New boss Nigel Pearson's arrival at Vicarage Road has coincided with an upturn that could conceivably have the Hornets out of the bottom three with a win over Bournemouth this weekend.

Never before have two different teams suffered Premier League losses of an eight-goal magnitude or greater in the same campaign.

Together, however, Southampton and Watford are setting about showing how humiliating results need only be regarded as a footnote to the season.

Manchester United will be without Harry Maguire for Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against a Manchester City side showing eight changes at Old Trafford.

Maguire was a doubt with an injury that troubled him during United's 0-0 FA Cup draw with Wolves on Saturday, with City having progressed in that competition at the expense of League Two Port Vale.

With Maguire absent, Phil Jones was picked to start alongside Victor Lindelof, while Marcus Rashford took the captain's armband and Mason Greenwood played up front.

There was also a spot for Fred as the hosts made five changes, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in at right-back and Jesse Lingard back in the starting XI, while Anthony Martial had to be content with a place among the substitutes.

City boss Pep Guardiola had the luxury of being able to recall the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling as he looks to win the trophy for a third year in a row, while Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus featured in a typically strong bench.

United, meanwhile, will be looking to take inspiration from last month's 2-1 win over their rivals in the Premier League as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes a first piece of silverware at the helm. 

Manchester United will be without Harry Maguire for Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against a Manchester City side showing eight changes at Old Trafford.

Maguire was a doubt with an injury that troubled him during United's 0-0 FA Cup draw with Wolves on Saturday, with City having progressed in that competition at the expense of League Two Port Vale.

With Maguire absent, Phil Jones was picked to start alongside Victor Lindelof, while Marcus Rashford took the captain's armband and Mason Greenwood played up front.

There was also a spot for Fred as the hosts made five changes, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka in at right-back and Jesse Lingard back in the starting XI, while Anthony Martial had to be content with a place among the substitutes.

City boss Pep Guardiola had the luxury of being able to recall the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling as he looks to win the trophy for a third year in a row, while Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus featured in a typically strong bench.

United, meanwhile, will be looking to take inspiration from last month's 2-1 win over their rivals in the Premier League as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes a first piece of silverware at the helm. 

Page 1 of 17
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.